Be Nice – You put two of any creature together in tight quarters and there will be repercussions. Sometimes that means good things happen. Sometimes that means bad things happen. Sometimes it just means a bit of bickering and unpleasantness.
That’s how it is with children. You produce them in multiples, with diverse personalities and somehow expect them to get along one hundred percent of the time. Impossible, I say. I love my kids. I find them charming and lovely. But some days I want to put one in a room and one outside and say you can’t play together until you get along. Oh, wait. I do that.
If my kids aren’t getting along they get two choices, separate or get along. Sometimes getting along is impossible and they separate. But it doesn’t last long because they are best friends and they want to play together. So one way or another they have to find a way to Be Nice.
They do. I hear them. Each from their own rooms, “We can Be Nice now. We want to play together.” And what choice do I have in the face of that plea. Back they go, to attempt the possible, being friends. A little separation has put things in perspective. The prospect of it looming makes them work harder at previous petty differences. Now they are a team.
Play – This is actually a rule in our house, Play. See, the kids are still small. They are four and six. They have the rest of their lives to work and be responsible members of society. Yes, they do chores and clean their rooms and things like that. They are great at helping dad outside. I want them to understand the value of a dollar. I get all of that. I try to be a responsible member of society.
But Play, that’s huge for them at this age. It is when they get to be totally and completely themselves. No one is telling them what to do or how to do it. There are no rules. It is when you see your child. You might even get a glimpse of who they will be when they grow up. When they become the man or woman they are meant to be.
When a child plays, they use every part of themselves. They use their mind, body. They are creative and brilliant and mischievous and honest. They are telling you what they like and dislike and who their friends are and what toys they like and what interests them and what doesn’t.
Sometimes life gets in the way of Play. They get over filled with classes and errands. We finally get home. Immediately they are like animals set free. They run, they jump, they create, they imagine. It is what they are meant to do. This is the time. The rest will come, it is inevitable. But Play, that is for now, for fun, for childhood.
Speak Softly – There really is no need to yell. Unless it is an emergency, most things can be said in a normal voice. That being said, I will confess that on occasion I raise my voice…I know, that was difficult for me to say but it had to be said. It happens. However, I don’t like it to be the norm. I want to live in a house where we Speak Softly.
I like when the kids are playing and the only loud noises are laughter. I like having conversations and not feeling overwhelmed with sound. I like for us to face each other when we speak. It helps with the no yelling thing. So, yes, loud sounds are a problem around here but really it’s nice to be in a calm home. It’s nice to not worry about screaming and chaos. Unless its an emergency, then feel free to scream.
Have Alone Time – Another product of a group of people all living in the same space is needing space. Sure, the kids love playing together and I love being with them. I love hanging out with my husband. Every chance we get we try to do fun things as a family or the kids and I do things during the day. But there comes a time sometime mid-afternoon or right before my husband comes home when the kids start looking droopy. My daughter is a bit grumpy. I’m a bit frazzled. My son is not talking to anyone.
We need Alone Time. I think to some degree or another everyone needs it, though our family seems to need it more than others. So I offer my daughter a chance to lay down. I tell my son he can go play with his Legos. They rarely balk. They seem to understand that their body is craving this down time, their mind needs this blackout. Even I retreat into a book or lay down and shut my eyes or even immerse myself in a complicated recipe just to tune out the world.
Alone Time is not a punishment it is a retreat a mini vacation every day. It is a time to re-energize. Because life does not stop. This break lasts for half an hour to an hour and we are back to life. We are playing and going to classes or dad comes home and we have gardens to tend and garages to clean. Alone Time is a distant memory but the kids are their normal energetic selves again so I know it worked.
Love A Lot – As soon as our first child was born I began looking at the world differently. I saw that it was dirty and mean out there. I wanted to swaddle them in bubble wrap. I wanted to be there for them every minute of the day, protect them from every barb and injury. I can’t do that. I did find that when bad things happened to them, they came running to me. I found that I was their refuge in this cruel, cruel world. I may be exaggerating a little for effect.
So instead of bubble wrap I decided to swath my kids in Love. I hug and kiss and give them words of affirmation when they need and deserve them. Because this world will continue to be harsh and a bit unfriendly but I will be a place of sanctuary. They will know that at home, where their father and I are, there will be a Love so pure and true that nothing they do will change that.
Share Everything – You know how when your child was born nothing was just yours anymore. Not your body, not your food, not your space, nothing is truly yours. Well, this is kind of good. Because it is true for the children as well. See in our house there is sacred space. Each child has a room and we, the adults, have a room. You have to be invited into the room. You have to respect the things inside the room.
Outside the room, however, everything is shared. That means that if it is laying about it is free game. It also means that we learn to handle each other’s things with care. Because if I choose to put out a pretty vase on my table and my daughter wants to play with it I either have to let her or teach her that it is not a play thing. More often, I let her explore it with me, let her touch it and look at it and then put it back gently. Once she realizes that it is not very interesting it is no longer appealing and becomes safe once again. We’ve had very few breakages.
It also means that I have stepped on more little bitty toy pieces than I care to remember. I get to appropriate these once they have pierced my skin. If they are not important enough to be picked up then they are mine. Tears may ensue. I don’t feel too bad since I am usually in pain, hopping on one foot while this is all taking place.
What this all really means is that our house runs as a cooperative. If you want something it’s yours but if I want something then its mine. And there can’t be a lot of “mine, mine, mine” because then you wouldn’t get anything in the end. So far it works pretty well. The kids look at what the other has and says, “hmm, do I want that?” I should probably ask nicely. Maybe they’ll Share. Usually they do. Eventually it will all come back.
Respect Each Other – The above sharing thing really only works if you have Respect For Each Other. We started using the R word really early on with the kids. I’m not sure how it first came up but they were young. Now they know that if I use the word Respect I mean business. It’s important and it has a lot of applications.
We Respect people. We Respect property. We Respect our bodies. We Respect the world. Well, there really isn’t anything we shouldn’t Respect, excepting those who don’t respect us back I guess. Anyway, we talk about it a lot.
The thing is, we’re a family and we love each other, but if we don’t Respect Each Other, our ideas, unique personalities, loveliness, grumpiness, good days and bad days it won’t work. What it takes to live in a house together with all its inherent difficulties is going to be Respect. The kids are going to be hearing more about this over the next few years. I may even need a reminder every once in while.
Pray – I may have gotten ahead of myself. The respect thing is huge but it may be prayer keeping this whole thing going. Yes, the kids ask, “Why do we have to Pray so much?” And they don’t even know about all my silent prayers, my nighttime begging prayers, my “I can’t handle this, it’s your turn” prayers.” Yeah, they think we Pray a lot but that’s just the prayers they know about.
Someday I may let them in on my little secret. I may tell them I’m not Super Mom after all. I know it’s going to shock them. I know it’s going to rock their world. But I think some day they will need to know I had some help. The whole time, it wasn’t just me and their dad watching them grow up. It wasn’t even all their other loving family. We had God on our side and we needed prayer to make that happen.